This month, advocates for women’s rights are marking the 50th anniversary of Griswold vs. Connecticut. In Connecticut, they gathered at the State Capitol to celebrate the legacy of the landmark court decision.
The people behind Griswold vs. Connecticut were family planning advocate Estelle Griswold, then the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut and Dr C. Lee Buxton. Both were arrested because they were operating a family planning clinic in violation of state law from 1879. That law prohibited the sale and use of contraceptive devices.
Griswold and Buxton appealed saying the law violated the federal constitution and their case eventually landed before the U.S Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, the justices ruled in June of 1965 that the Connecticut law violated the constitutional right to marital privacy meaning married couples have the right to use contraception.
Today, advocates say it paved the way for the nearly unanimous acceptance of birth control that now exists in this country and also laid the foundation for the right to an abortion. Judy Tabar is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.
“Today there are 62 million U.S. women in their child bearing years and 99 percent of them have used contraception, they’ve used at least one method,” Tabar said. “The bottom line is birth control is basic healthcare and it has a profound impact on women’s lives.”
She said the landmark decision opened doors to vital health care services like the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and screening for cervical and breast cancers.
Carolyn Treiss, the Executive Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said the court decision went beyond just recognizing the constitutional right to privacy.
“The availability of legal contraception, most notably the pill, has afforded women greater ability to pursue education and careers,” Treiss said.
While they celebrated the legacy of Griswold, they also acknowledged the legal and legislative battles still being waged across the country that they say restrict women’s access to contraceptives and contribute to ongoing health disparities.